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Suspect killed, 3 nabbed in governor’s assassination

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Suspect killed, 3 nabbed in governorâs assassination
Photo shows the firearm of an officer guarding the wake of Degamo in Dumaguete City.
PTV4

Death toll in Negros Oriental attack rises to 9

MANILA, Philippines — A suspect in the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo was killed in hot pursuit operations, a police official said yesterday, while three others were arrested.

In a radio interview, Philippine National Police (PNP) public information office chief Col. Redrico Maranan said that during the course of hot pursuit, a suspect “died.”

In a statement, the PNP said the unidentified suspect was killed after firing at the police.

“During the exchange of fire, the unidentified suspect incurred fatal gunshot wounds resulting in his death. Right now, continuous efforts are made to identify the dead suspect and to arrest the remaining perpetrators,” the statement read.

Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson for the PNP Special Investigation Task Group, confirmed yesterday the suspect’s death following an encounter at about 9 p.m. in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan, Negros Oriental.

Soon afterwards, police recovered five assault rifles, two B40 rocket-propelled grenades, four bandoliers loaded with steel magazines and ammunition, a rifle case, two combat uniforms, a grey sweatshirt, three pairs of combat shoes, two caliber .45 magazines, assorted ammunition and two bullet proof vests near the vehicles abandoned by the suspects in the same barangay.

In coordination with the Land Transportation Office, Pelare said the owners of the abandoned vehicles have been established, but he refused to elaborate.

A few hours before the encounter and recovery of firearms believed to have been used in the killing of Degamo, three suspects had been captured by the combined operating troops of the Bayawan Municipal Police Station, PNP-Special Action Force and Philippine Army also in Cansumalig.

The three suspects, identified as Joric Labrador, 50; Joven Aber, 42; and Benjie Rodriguez, 45, were arrested in an operation in Sitio Punong in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental at 4:20 p.m., Saturday.

Pelare, in a press briefing, said that the three arrested suspects, who were subjected to paraffin testing, were cooperative in the Special Investigation Task Group investigations.

Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, disclosed that the three suspects, including a former Scout Ranger trooper, were dishonorably discharged from the Philippine Army for various offenses.

Another suspect in the attack and killing of Degamo was also reported to have been arrested yesterday by the police and Army soldiers during a raid in Amlan, Negros Oriental. Found with the suspect were a cache of firearms, sniping gear, ammunition and two car plates.

“The swift action of our ground units made possible this early breakthrough in the investigation of Gov. Degamo’s murder. The PNP will not stop here, remaining suspects on the run need to be captured perhaps within the next few hours and the following days until we arrest all the participants and mastermind of this heinous crime,” the PNP said in a statement.

Maranan said they are coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines since the suspects were seen wearing military fatigues.

“Our main objective is to really get to the mastermind, and who are really involved in the crime. We are hoping that the three we arrested, and the others we will catch, will cooperate,” he added.

Several gunmen entered the property of Degamo, 56, and opened fire as the governor distributed aid to constituents. He is the latest to be targeted in the Philippines’ long history of attacks on politicians, and is at least the third to be shot since local elections just last year.

The Supreme Court last month declared him the rightful winner of the contest for the Negros Oriental governorship following a recount that unseated his local rival, who had previously been proclaimed the victor.

Imee calls for state of emergency

As the number of fatalities in the shooting incident inside Degamo’s residential compound has risen to nine, with 17 others injured, Sen. Imee Marcos yesterday called for placing Negros Oriental under a “state of emergency” as soon as possible.

The governor was among nine fatalities which included two barangay officials. Among the 17 injured were Provincial Health Officer Dr. Liland Estacion, Cpl. Gerald Malones and Sgt. Edmar Sayon, both members of the Army 11th Infantry Battalion, according to a statement issued by the Police Regional Office 7.

Marcos, who visited Degamo’s wake in Dumaguete City yesterday, said “This needs to stop, and not only the hitmen, or the murderers, their paymasters, but also the mastermind, and whoever conspired to make this happen.”

“Let us leave no stone unturned and no culprits unpunished. This cannot go unpunished and the perpetrators of this heinous crime, barbaric as it is and cowardly, should be punished as soon as possible,” she added.

PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin, in a press conference at the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office headquarters in Sibulan – which was also attended by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and AFP chief Andres Centino – responded to Senator Marcos’ plea, stressing that “So far, everything is still on the manageable level.”

Azurin said that those involved in the assassination appear to not be fully organized in their execution plans to kill Degamo, as some of them were immediately arrested during pursuit operations. Abalos also vowed to ensure that justice will be served to the families of the governor and other victims.

In a press conference at the wake of her husband, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo yesterday said that they are not losing hope to attain justice for her husband and the other victims.

Mayor Degamo also urged the arrested suspects to reveal the identity of the mastermind.

Asked for her message to the mastermind, she replied “To the one behind this, your time will come soon.”

Meanwhile, Negros Oriental Vice Gov. Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes was sworn in as new governor of the province following the assassination.

Reyes took his oath of office before Abalos on Saturday night.

Abalos also administered the oath of office of First Board Member Chaco Sagarbarria as new vice governor of Negros Oriental at the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office on Sunday.

Witnessing the event were Romualdez and Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Chiquiting Sagarbarria.

“Today, Negros Oriental Vice Governor Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes took his oath as the new governor of the province. The administration condemns the killing of former Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and other victims of this violence,” Abalos said in Facebook post.

“Through the joint efforts of the police and military, you can assure that we will not stop until justice is served to the victims of this crime,” he added.

Abalos also appealed to witnesses to come forward and help in the investigation.

Abalos, Romualdez, Marcos and Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Terence Calatrava inspected the recovered high-powered firearms and explosives from the arrested suspects. – Gilbert Bayoran, DM

ARREST

ROEL DEGAMO

Philstar
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